More and more over the past several weeks, I've taken the dogs gallivanting around my neighborhood rather than making the ten minute drive to Reid Park and Miko's Corner Playground. This is partly to save driving time, so we can get a late start and still get a walk in. It also saves gas, obviously. The dogs don't seem to mind. They don't pause or pull me toward the car as we go by it, but are happy to trot along down streets and alleyways, sniffing the occasional other dog through a fence and smelling whatever smells may be found. But I miss the number and variety of encounters I have with people and animals when we go to the park instead. To wit:
There was a dog owner, S., whose dog never really warmed up to me, or anyone other than S., really. I photographed her dog a few times, including for my April Fool's Day entry in which I claimed to have adopted five more dogs and given them all spice-related names. Early in Holy Week, S. and her dog were there as usual, and S. ended our chat with "See you tomorrow," to which I replied, "Probably." I have not seen either the dog or owner since then. I worry that something happened to S. or the dog. My hope is that S.'s schedule changed at work, and everything is fine. But every time I'm at the dog park and she's not there, I worry a little more.
A colorful food vendor truck at the performance center.
Most of the encounters are briefer and more light-hearted. There was the time I walked past a tall man and a short woman, practicing slow dancing next to the duck pond, without music. The man was instructing his partner on a waltz step or somesuch. There was a woman who asked me what all the birds were in a certain tree (Black-crowned Night Herons), and correctly deduced that the speckled one was an immature bird of the same species. There was the tween-age girl who confided that she was carrying tadpoles in a cup.
And there's a little man from Parks & Rec, part of whose job is to politely shoo people out of the rose garden at 7 PM or sunset, whichever is earlier. I didn't give him grief the first time I met him, even though I needed a rose picture for a photo shoot and couldn't go in to take one. Now we always smile and say hi as we pass each other on our respective rounds.
A game of follow-the-leader
|From Reid at Random|
Then there are the kids, inevitably reacting to my two dogs. Some are frightened, and I try to reassure them that they are nice dogs if you're not mean to them. Some exclaim excitedly to their parents, and want to rush over to pet the doggie. If the parent tries to frighten the kid away, I try to balance their instruction with the same reassurance I give the frightened kids, but in either case I don't encourage them to approach the dogs. Cayenne is not all that great with children, who may approach too quickly, hand out in what Cayenne seems to think may be an attack. Pepper is much more relaxed about this, and I must say that the children who are slow and gentle about it seem to be delighted with the result. Even Cayenne will tolerate the occasional child - and she's great with her adult admirers, demanding extensive petting at times.
Another jaunt down a neighborhood alleyway.
Walking around the neighborhood, I don't see many people, and speak to even fewer of them. My most recent contect with our next door neighbors was at a toy show a couple of months ago. I've chatted a little with the lady across the street, who has cancer, and who also has a sweet golden retriever. I've said hello to a few other neighbors as we go by. And the other night I came across a young adult teaching a girl to ride a bicycle, accompanied by several other kids. I had the usual back and forth with the kids, giving the dogs' names and supervising a moment of petting. The young adult (big sister, probably) didn't say a word.
There was also the child in a house the next street over, shouting to his mom as we passed by on the sidewalk. "Mom! There are two really pretty dogs in the front yard!" I heard no reply, and to my slight disappointment, the kid didn;t come out for a closer look.
"Do you hear that, fuzzheads?" I told the dogs. "People think you're pretty."
The dogs, who hasn't seen or smelled anything or interest, continued down the sidewalk without comment.